Unplanned pregnancy has been at the centre of conversation in coming-of-age comedies in the past, such as in Jason Reitman’s Juno or Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, coincidentally released in the same year. Norwegian writer and director Yngvild Sve Flikke tackles the topic in a playfully original way for her sophomore feature Ninjababy.
Based on Inga H Sætre’s graphic novel Fallteknik, the dramedy follows millennial layabout Rakel (Kristine Kujath Thorp) who lives with her sister Ingrid (Tora Christine Dietrichson) and spends her days doodling and drinking after dropping out of a graphic design course. Whilst tagging along to an aikido class, she reconnects with instructor Mos (Nader Khademi), after realising that they’d had a drunken one night stand a few months prior because ‘he smelled like butter’. However, their dating hopes are dashed when Rakel discovers that she’s expecting his child.
The narrative begins somewhat conventionally as an idiosyncratic anti-romcom, but Flikke really flexes her directorial creativity once the protagonist eventually comes to terms with her unwanted situation. She sketches a cartoon version of her unborn child, comically giving him the nickname that provides the film with its title due to the stealthy nature of his existence. Using fun animation to bring the eponymous character to life, the surreal dynamic between Rakel and Ninjababy smartly provides a vehicle to get inside the former’s brilliantly progressive psyche. As the emotional plot develops, the eccentric comedy slowly makes way for heartfelt drama and the difficult tone of the story is handled very well.
Flikke’s script is crafted alongside TV writer Johan Fasting and their collective effort introduces a handful of interesting characters as Rakel assesses her options. This brings about an array of solid supporting turns including Khademi as compassionate Warhammer fanatic Mos and Arthur Berning as the local lothario hilariously known as ‘Dick Jesus’ who plays the archetypal douchebag. They each bring out sides of Rakel’s complex personality, and Kristine Kujath Thorp’s excellent leading performance captures this as she wrestles with her impending dilemma.
Yngvild Sve Flikke’s Ninjababy is an inventive and entertaining indie gem packed with humour and pathos, heightened by Thorp’s refreshingly candid portrayal of a young woman who simply doesn’t want to be a mother.